It’s been a case of ‘close but no cigar’, for punters backing Andy Murray to win an Australian Open title over the past 7 years.
Since 2010, Murray has reached one quarter final, one semi-final and a whopping five finals. In four of those finals he’s lost to fierce rival, Novak Djokovic. That won’t be the case this year, however, as the talented Serb suffered a shock second round loss to Denis Istomin.
Whilst Djokovic’s loss is Murray’s gain, the Brit still finds himself on easily the hardest side of the draw. The current world number one faces tough matches against Roger Federer (quarter-final) and Stan Wawrinka (semi-final) if results go as expected.
However, there is no doubt Murray would start as a clear favourite in both of those match ups, and the lure of a ‘non-Djokovic’ opponent in the final makes him a very tempting bet at the current odds.
Watching Dominic Thiem play can be simply incredible at times.
At his best, Thiem is as good as Roger Federer in his hey-day. The glorious one-handed back hand, the deft touch when at the net, the vastly underrated serve.
Unfortunately, Thiem’s game is not quite at a level of consistency which would see him hold down a top 5 ranking (he’s currently world number 8).
However, that’s not to say he couldn’t string 2 or 3 complete games together and go all the way. He is without doubt the best value option left in the men’s draw.
Shopping around, you can still find odds of $41 about this talented young Austrian going all the way. That price won’t last.
Thiem’s round of 16 match is against David Goffin. Barring an implosion, he will simply blow the 5’11” Belgian off the court with his powerful ground strokes.
After this, he will either face Grigor Dimitrov or Denis Istomin. Istomin is coming off two consecutive five set wins, whilst Dimitrov had to deal with a midnight start in his victory over Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
With the draw on his side and a $41 lure being dangled, the risk-reward equation is looking very appealing for the 23-year-old Thiem.
Serena Williams has been rock solid in her 3 games thus far.
The 22-time grand slam champion hasn’t put a foot wrong, with straight set wins over Belinda Bencic, Nicole Gibbs and Lucie Safarova.
At 35 years old, however, there has to be some question’s over how William’s body will hold up come crunch time in the tournament’s second week.
Further to this, William’s recent gland slam record suggests she may be a little under the odds to win the title at $3.
After starting favourite in all 4 majors last year, William’s could only manage one title (Wimbledon) – a relatively slender return for her standards.
Her recent Australian Open record is also somewhat mediocre. Despite winning six Aussie Open titles over the course of her career, just one of these has come in the past six years.
On the positive side of things, her two obvious challenges, Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova, have had less than stellar runs in week 1.
Two of Kerber’s three matches have gone the distance (against opponent’s ranked outside the world’s top 50). Meanwhile, in Pliskova’s most recent outing, she struggled against little known Jelena Ostapenko to eventually triumph 10-8 in the third set.
William’s biggest challenge could come in the quarter finals, where she will likely be tasked with disposing of a red hot Brit (see below).
Johanna Konta is the one to look out for in the women’s draw.
Possessing a complete game, Konta has had little trouble disposing of 3 strong opponents (Flipkens, Osaka and Wozniacki) in week 1 of the Open.
Assuming she gets by world number 30, Ekaterina Makarova in the round of 16, she will almost certainly be faced with a daunting quarter final against world number 2, Serena Williams.
However, the task is not beyond the 25 year old Brit.
You only have to look at Konta’s ranking progression to know she is a player on the rise. This time a year ago, the current world number 9 had just moved into the world’s top 50. A year prior to that, she was languishing around 150.
If the Konta-William’s quarter final does eventuate, it will certainly be one not to miss. And, if Konta is to triumph, the current $9.50 on offer for her to win her maiden grand slam will look mighty fine.